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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Unique Itzhak Perlman concert relaxing, timeless

Since I began to play the violin in third grade, I’ve listened to CD recordings of Itzhak Perlman, one of  the greatest violinists of the past several decades. When I decided to join a youth orchestra in sixth grade, my mom played his studio recordings in the car as she drove me to my auditions; when I picked up a new violin piece, my music teacher played his CD and told me, plainly, “to imitate.”

In other words, Itzhak Perlman is no mere violinist in the music community — he’s an icon. (For those who aren’t so familiar with classical musicians, he performed the theme song solo for the recording of “Schindler’s List.”)

So when I learned that he was performing on Jan. 18 in Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony, I hurried to purchase a ticket online. There was exactly one seat left, in the far left corner of the first tier — not an ideal view, certainly, but this was a ticket to hear (and perhaps see) a great musician play live.
I arrived at Davies Hall in the midst of an eager crowd, mostly middle-aged and elderly concert-goers. Overwhelming applause welcomed our venerated guest performer, who entered the stage in his wheelchair. He had been diagnosed with polio at age 4, when his legs became permanently paralyzed. Beside him at the piano sat his partner Rohan de Silva, a renowned pianist who has played accompaniments for musicians across the globe.

Perlman began with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 8 in G major,” and immediately everyone fell silent and still, our eyes fixed on the performer’s every movement. His delicate, pearly notes drifted from the brightly-lit end of the hall to the attentive audience seated on the other side. At the end of each movement, a man beside me repeated “phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal” under his breath.

Following Beethoven’s piece was Edvard Grieg’s “Sonata No. 3 in C minor,” a passionate, characteristic work by the famous Romantic composer. The piece easily ranked as my favorite of the night; its lively melodies contained many elements of Norwegian folk music and was a lovely lyrical work. The song’s soothing tunes and Perlman’s swift bow put me at peace in my seat. After a brief intermission, Maurice Ravel’s “Sonata in G major” concluded the printed program.

But the violin maestro wasn’t finished yet — from the stage, Perlman announced the titles of additional works he would perform. He continued with Arcangelo Corelli’s “Sarabande and Allegretto,” a title with which I was not familiar but audience members around me recognized, humming in anticipation.

Perlman ended the piece with a flourish and after our applause, continued with several other short pieces such as the theme song of “Schindler’s List,” Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of Chopin’s “Mazurka” and Prokofiev’s “March” from “The Love for Three Oranges.” He effortlessly executed each piece with brilliance and fluidity, adding his unique flavor.

The Israeli-American virtuoso and his piano collaborator received a standing ovation. With violin and bow sitting in his lap, Perlman waved to the audience, then disappeared through the stage door.

As a fan of Perlman and classical music, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. But beyond that, this genre of music isn’t at all limited to members of the music community alone — hearing orchestral music live is a relaxing and enriching experience that anyone can appreciate. The classical era may date back centuries, but its music is a timeless entertainment that I highly recommend exploring in today’s elegant concert venues: from the Davies to the antique California Theatre.

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